It couldn’t come at a worse time.
Just a little more than a week before the Super Bowl — when we will all be needing our crock-pots for chili duty — a beloved character on a top-rated television show is killed by his crock-pot, and panic has ensued.
If you are one of the 15.6 million fans of the NBC show, “This is Us,” and haven’t yet viewed the Jan. 23 episode, there are spoilers here. There was one in the previous paragraph also, but unless you’ve been sleeping in a cave since Tuesday last, you’ve undoubtedly heard already.
The final scene of the episode in question shows Jack Pearson cleaning up his kitchen after a Super Bowl party. He turns off the slow cooker used to cook the chili for the celebration but after he goes to bed, it shorts out and sets the house on fire.
Bear in mind that “This is Us” is the number one entertainment show on broadcast TV in prime time’s key advertising demographic of adults 18-49, and some of those adults are losing their minds.
Social media is full of distraught fans throwing out their slow cookers in a fit of panic, with hashtags #ThisIsUs and#SOSIMILAR.
Not surprisingly, The Crock-Pot brand is freaking out, and took the unprecedented step of opening a Twitter account to fight the backlash against fictional death by slow cooker. They’re trying to reassure customers of the safety of their products and offering to send out crockpots and recipes. They are also imploring NBC to help them get the word out that their appliances are not death-traps, since it was NBC who started that rumor in the first place.
A Crock-Pot spokesperson said in a statement it’s important that “consumers understand and have confidence that all Crock-Pot slow cookers exceed all internal testing protocols and all applicable industry safety standards and regulations.” It remains to be seen if this statement, coupled with lighthearted tweets gently reminding customers of the difference between fact and fiction, will be enough to save the brand.
It’s important to note that in the television show, the brand of the slow cooker is not shown, but as an industry leader, Crock-Pot is taking the brunt of the backlash.
In the interest of helping to preserve a useful kitchen tool, a recipe follows for Super Bowl chili. It’s just in time for the real-life Super Bowl, and by cooking the chili in your slow cooker, you can demonstrate your knowledge of the difference between fact and fiction. And what better time to whip up a Crock-Pot Death by Chocolate Cake? It’s a fitting real-life tribute to a fallen fictional hero.
Some folks have found the brouhaha amusing, and possibly enlightening. Beth Mastin Brooks of Elkin, asked in a Facebook post, “So I’m just wondering if the people who threw out their crockpots after a fictional show are raising the kids who are eating the Tide pods?”
Now that Beth has brought it up, one does indeed wonder.
Crock-Pot Death By Chocolate Cake
A tongue-in-cheek memorial to a fallen fictional hero.
1 box Devil’s Food Cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cup semisweet chocolate chipes
Cooking spray, for Crock-Pot
Ice cream, for serving (optional)
In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix. Whisk to combine. Add milk, eggs, melted butter, sour cream, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Grease the bowl of Crock-Pot with nonstick cooking spray. Add batter to Crock-Pot and smooth top with spatula. Cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours checking at 2 hours to make sure the edges aren’t burning. Cake can be kept on warm for up to 4 hours before serving. The finished cake should be set on the sides and still gooey in the center. Serve with ice cream, if using.
Super Bowl Chili
This recipe is not written for a crock-pot if you are too weirded out by recent fictional events to cook your Super Bowl chili in a slow cooker. But if you have a crock-pot big enough and are brave enough, it would certainly work. In any event, it’s a great chili, worthy of a special event.
1 lb. dried small red beans (soak 8 hours or more in cold water)
1 tbsp. chicken soup base for cooking beans. (You can use 2 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in about a cup of Merlot)
1 tsp. garlic powder (for cooking beans)
1 tsp. onion powder (for cooking beans)
1 tsp. olive oil (for cooking beans)
2 pkg. (1 lb. each) pork sausage (hot or mild or a combination)
2 1/2 lbs. ground beef (ground chuck is best)
3 cans beef broth or 6 cups homemade beef stock
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans water (you can use liquid from reconstituting ancho chiles.)
3 cans petite diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. dried oregano
3 tbsp. ground chile powder (or more, use New Mexico chile powder if you can find it. It’s often in the Hispanic foods section)
4 dried Ancho chiles (soften them up with a little red wine)
2 tbsp. dried chipotle chile powder (Use only 1 tbsp. for milder chili)
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper (use 1 or 2 tsp. for milder chili)
2 tbsp. dried parsley
2 large or 3 small onions, diced small
1 lb. white mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 small cans olives, drained and cut in half lengthwise
salt/pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional) plus additional cilantro to garnish
Put soaked red beans in saucepan with enough water to cover. Add chicken soup base, garlic powder, onion powder, and olive oil and bring beans to a gentle simmer. Cook about one hour, until barely tender. (The small amount of olive oil prevents the “foam” that comes when dried beans are cooking. You can omit if you prefer.)
While beans cook, brown pork sausage well, breaking up with turner as it cooks in very large frying pan. If you don’t have a big enough pan, just split it up. Remove from pan and place in large soup pot. Next brown ground beef well, breaking up with turner, and place in soup pot. Add beef broth, tomato sauce, water or liquid from peppers, diced tomatoes, garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano, chile powder, Ancho chiles, cayenne, chipotle, dried parsley, and bring the soup pot ingredients to a gentle simmer.
Wipe out frying pan and add 1/2 tbsp. olive oil. Add diced onions and saute 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add to chili. Add more olive oil if needed and saute mushrooms 5 minutes. Toss on a little wine and simmer a bit. Add to chili.
When beans are barely tender add to chili, along with cooking liquid. Add olives and canned black beans, if using. Let chili simmer on low several hours. Add cilantro last 15 minutes of cooking time. Taste for salt/pepper and serve hot, with cheese and sour cream if desired.